And, as some bloggers have pointed out, it’s deeply problematic. The actor’s make-up is supposed to emulate Kirby Satler’s famous “I Am Crow photo.” Zunguzungu calls this latest iteration “Johnny Depp’s minstrelsy.”
First, the original painting from artist Kirby Salter. And then the make-up that Depp’s wearing.
Here’s Zunguzungu’s critique:
To be a member of the Crow nation — as the subject of the painting is apparently doing — also requires a certain kind of expressive work: you have to say that you are, claim it, speak it into existence.
… the Crow nation is an identity that cannot be taken for granted because of genocide, not to put too fine a point on it. To the extent that it lives on, it carries this burden of death and destruction with it, and will, forever or for a long time. And this is probably why much of the discourse on native peoples ends up on spirituality, especially as that theme is taken up by non-native peoples writing about native peoples: it’s a function of the fact that so much of what was one a vibrant life-world now resides in the wherever-it-is-that-people-go-when-they-die world or in the intangible world of discourse.
For more on why “Tonto” does (or doesn’t) matter, be sure to check out Native Appropriations.